SOMETHING about summer elevates nostalgia levels in the brain.
At least, in me it does. No sooner does the weather warm up and I switch on Buffalo Tom’s summer anthem of 1995 – aptly called Summer – than my heart is filled with nostalgia for “simpler times”.
I drift into quiet deference for “the ol’ days” and previous summers I spent listening to that song.
The thing is, though, when I was listening to that song as a youth, I wasn’t living in the moment – I was reflecting on previous summers, reliving what I assumed then were the “good ol’ days”.
It’s all a trick of the mind – those long-lost magical summers of yesteryear weren’t any better than this one.
The brain, it seems, is wonderful at filtering out the mundane moments of daily existence and morphing past experiences into a highlights reel that would never survive any credible study of history as it really happened.
And summer songs get you thinking of childhood. Each line sung has you remembering the ol’ days when you cavorted along the beach, holding hands with a sweetheart, writing each other’s name in the sand.
Then you remember you rarely went to the beach during your childhood. Nor did you have a sweetheart – you were with your mum and dad, at home, pretty much the whole summer. You were watching TV because you didn’t even like going to the pool.
I’m not saying the rose-coloured sun shades are a bad thing. There’s nothing wrong with fond childhood memories. Or remembering the good things instead of the bad (or the boring).
There’s nothing wrong with imagination either, so long as you’re not living too vicariously through other people’s memories of summer, or subscribing to what summer is supposed to mean to you.
But “simpler times” are not always what they’re cut out to be.
One of my favourite summer memories was going to a Big Day Out festival in the early 2000s. An enduring image is walking into the Melbourne Showgrounds to a perfect blue sky and the sound of Sydney band Gerling echoing across the main arena.
What a great summer. The best days ever. The type that defined my life and for which I forever yearn to relive.
Actually, no. I wore sandals and the tops of my feet were so sunburned that I couldn’t walk for a week afterwards. Good times – for a while – but I don’t want that summer back.
Too much yearning for the idealised ol’ days, in fact, rarely does justice to the time you have now.
Poet Walt Whitman wrote that there “will never be any more perfection than there is now”. And songwriter Mark Everett sang that “these could be the good ol’ days”.
So why not? Soak up the good times – squeeze them in between your time at the office if that’s what it takes. In a few years’ time, your brain will have you thinking the fun lasted, well, the whole summer.